Just last week my five year old daughter happily jumped in the backseat when I picked her up from school and said “Susie is going to spend the night at Jane’s house and I’m invited mom! Can I go?” Well that was easy…duh, NO! (I didn’t say that out loud.)
I do not know Jane or her family so I explained that would not be happening. She had a reply for this, “Moooom, you just say hello to her parents and then you’ll know them!” Oh if it were only that simple, sweetie! I next tried to explain that her parents need to talk to me about it, and I don’t know their phone numbers or have their address, and she quickly interrupted, “She lives at number 10 in a blue house with a white door.” Well okay then, that makes it easy! The mind of a 5 year old girl must be a fascinating place! I tried to talk to her about how I’m sure they were a nice family and maybe we could have a playdate sometime, but I didn’t think it was a safe idea to let her stay the night with strangers.
And so it begins. At five.
I have fond memories of sleepovers with my friends growing up. There were late night chats, giggling, snacks, movies, staying up late, truth or dare, and even once a seance where we tried to bring Conway Twitty back from the dead. (Small town girls can be quite imaginative!) But looking back there was also lots of gossip, teasing, drama, prank phone calls, and general mischief. Girls can be cruel. And those might be some of the safer issues that happen at sleep overs!
There are also much more serious issues that can take place: finding a gun, trying alcohol, discovering prescription pills, peer pressure to try things that might be harmful, and sexual abuse. In light of recent online articles (like this one with excerpts from Dr. Dobson) the facts about sexual abuse happening most often with a family you are close with are staggering. And it may not be a family friend, but you never know if your child’s friend will have an older sibling with a friend over, or a cousin, or uncle, there’s many variables at play.
While I am not one in favor of parenting out of fear or assuming the worst in people, I do feel it is my responsibility to try to keep my daughter safe and help her make good choices as she grows and matures. I won’t put her in a bubble or be with her 24/7, but are sleepovers too vulnerable a position for a child at 5? At 10? At 15? I’m not sure. We haven’t made a hard and fast rule yet as a family. She has spent the night with grandparents and a few very close friends of ours, but I can also see how this will cause issues when she’s older as we try to distinguish who we feel she’s safe with and who might be questionable.
I asked some of the other contributors what their family policy is and most of them feel the same as I currently do and think it will have to be a case by case basis.
Amy says: “Big brothers and sisters are too risky if you ask me. I’ve heard too many stories. It only takes one time to scar your child for life. I don’t mind being “that mom” if it means my kids are safe.”
Erin comments: “We’ve only hosted one sleepover and let my oldest have one sleepover at a friends house (other than grandparent sleepovers). I trust the family really, really well and know there are no physical dangers (guns, knives, etc.) that are within reach, and I know their spiritual walk is pure when it comes to children. I much prefer my child to have friends over to our house so I can be aware of all things happening, but if I know and trust the family of the friend, then it will be a case by case basis.”
Kristi states: “I go back and forth. It really depends on the family….my daughter is attending her first slumber party away this week. I trust that family & it’s a small group of girls. We’ve had kids stay the night at our house…I much prefer that.”
So what do you think? Do you have a hard and fast rule about sleepovers in your family? How do you decided who you will let your child stay the night with? If you aren’t consistent does this create a problem when they are older?